Foxconn boss has a Sharp eye for business

Mr Terry Gou (centre), founder and chairman of Taiwan's Foxconn Technology, at a press conference earlier this month after meeting Sharp executives in Osaka regarding a takeover of the Japanese electronics company.
Mr Terry Gou (centre), founder and chairman of Taiwan's Foxconn Technology, at a press conference earlier this month after meeting Sharp executives in Osaka regarding a takeover of the Japanese electronics company. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI • Mr Terry Gou, founder of the world's biggest electronics supplier and the main assembler of Apple's iPhone, has not shied away from a gamble since turning a loan from his mother into a multibillion-dollar empire.

The 65-year-old chairman of Taiwan's Hon Hai group, the parent of Foxconn, is now applying that same aggressiveness with a proposal to take control of Japan's ailing Sharp.

The firm yesterday said it has accepted the multibillion-dollar bailout - marking the first foreign takeover of a major Japanese electronics company - although Foxconn later said that with "material information" in hand, it cannot sign the deal.

Mr Gou was born in Taipei county to Chinese immigrant parents, who had fled the communist victory in China's civil war.

He studied shipping management in college while supporting himself with part-time jobs.

Sharp yesterday said it has accepted the multi-billion-dollar bailout - marking the first foreign takeover of a major Japanese electronics company - although Foxconn later said that with "material information" in hand, it cannot sign the deal.

He started his business in 1974 making television parts with an investment of NT$100,000 from his mother, and later began producing computer parts.

Mr Gou - known for being a demanding and harsh boss - faced one of his toughest challenges when high-profile suicides at his China plants forced him to reassess his management style. "I've slept very little in the past 40 days... This is a trial for us," he told investors in 2010.

One of the richest men in Taiwan - the fourth wealthiest, Forbes said, with a net worth of US$5.7 billion (S$8 billion) - Mr Gou built the world's biggest contract maker of electronic gadgets from scratch more than 40 years ago.

The latest deal, to buy Sharp, will see him aiming to take over one of the largest suppliers of screens for phones and tablets.

He will be adding five new Japanese divisions and a whole lot of debt to his huge, but lean, Taiwanese manufacturing empire.

He has pointed to his 2012 personal investment in Sharp's Sakai Display unit and subsequent turnaround at the LCD factory as an example of what Foxconn can do for the wider Sharp company.

Mr Gou is seeking to broaden Foxconn's remit, transforming it into a company that also makes key electronic components and devices.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2016, with the headline 'Foxconn boss has a Sharp eye for business'. Print Edition | Subscribe